A Volunteer's First Experience with ITW in Uganda

DSC00874We've only been here a few days but so much has happened it feels more like a month. After an impossibly long flight and a dark and bumpy bus ride we arrive in Kampala, Uganda's largest city. Unusual sounds and smells punctuate the night and after a few hours of sleep we have a quick team meeting to plan the upcoming week. It is is an ambitious agenda for the next few days: setting up breast cancer protocols in Kamuli; community outreach with Village Health Workers in Nawanyago; an Ultra Sound Lab with local secondary students; the creation and/or revision of several surveys which will help measure the impact of ITW; and the launching of a high school enrichment program. The village of Kamuli, a three hour ride on mostly rough and unpaved roads is our first stop. Several of us tour Kamuli Mission Hospital with Dr. Alfonsus Matovu. It is both humbling and inspiring to see the incredible work that he does with so little. ITW team member Chris Stark arrived before the rest of the group to work with Dr. Matovu preparing for breast biopsies. Diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer is almost nonexistent in this part of Uganda. The new ITW protocols will help educate and support women with everything from information on the importance of self breast exams to treatment of a diagnosed cancer.

The next day half the team works at Kamuli Mission Hospital while the rest of us travel to Nawanyago, ITW's initial imaging site. We meet with Sr. Angela, the true spirit and backbone of this rural village clinic. The ITW team facilitates an Ultrasound Lab which teaches local secondary students about teen pregnancy. Following this talk, Sr. Angela clearly and calmly demonstrates how ultrasound technology allows her to see a baby inside the mother's womb. She peppers the students with general anatomy questions gently chastising them when they don't know an answer and smilingly encouraging them to study more biology. The students ask excellent questions from how she can tell the age of a baby to why babies are born prematurely.

DSCF2098As part of ITW's enrichment program, Maddy and my daughter Anna, the two high schoolers on the trip, survey the Ugandan students about their knowledge of reproductive health before and after the Ultrasound Lab. It's safe to say that both sides learned from this exchange. Afterwards, the Ugandan students cluster around Maddy and Anna asking questions about life in America and wondering when they will be back again. It's exciting to see these relationships develop and the progress that ITW has made in this region.

-Kathleen Fleming

Blog, VolunteersITW Team